SNC and Free Syrian Army row over military leadership

Members of the Free Syrian Army are seen deployed in al-Bayada district in Homs, 28 February 2012. (Photo: Reuters - Stringer)

Published Thursday, March 1, 2012

The alliance between the Syrian National Council (SNC) and the Free Syrian Army appears to have collapsed on Thursday after the armed rebels claimed they had been excluded from the SNC's new military bureau.

The leader of the Free Syrian Army Colonel Riyadh Asaad on Thursday said he had not been consulted about its formation and accused the SNC of trying to take control of the opposition.

“The SNC needs to review its positions and stop acting like it's the only player in Syria,” he told Al Jazeera Arabic television.

The Istanbul-based SNC, which claims to represent the Syrian people but whose actual presence in Syria is questionable, announced on Thursday the establishment of a new military bureau to facilitate arms supplies into the country.

The SNC had originally rejected the militarization of the uprising, but has since renounced its position and thrown its full backing behind the use of armed force.

The external opposition said it would deepen its cooperation with the Free Syrian Army in January, but the recent move appears to have agitated the armed rebels, who fear the SNC's military push will sideline them.

“We don't want the SNC to intervene in our military work,” Asaad said. “The Free Syrian Army are the people on the ground, not the SNC.”

The SNC hit back at the colonel, accusing Asaad of wanting to be the “ultimate leader” of the Syrian opposition.

Ausama Monajed, spokesperson for the SNC, claimed Asaad had agreed to the plan before it was established.

“I was present when the President of the SNC spoke with Colonel Assad and he agreed to be part of the SNC military bureau. What he is saying is false,” he told Al-Akhbar.

Monajed accused Asaad of trying to control the uprising, but said world powers would not recognize his authority.

“Colonel Asaad is afraid that he will lose control because now the SNC is in charge,” he said. “All international countries and powers would not support anything that is purely a militia.”

The public dispute is likely to further undermine the divided Syrian opposition, which has been struggling to unite efforts in the 11-month uprising against President Bashar Assad's rule.

Syria's political opposition is already divided between internal activists opposed to foreign intervention and the use of force, and the SNC.

But the SNC spokesperson dismissed concerns that a split with the Free Syrian Army will hinder the opposition, alleging that only five percent of armed rebels are under Colonel Assad's orders.

“Colonel Assad does not control the Free Syrian Army or the armed resistance inside, maximum five percent,” Monajed said, adding that "others (armed factions) are working independently, that's why we created the military bureau."

"This has to be organized – it cannot carry on this way in a chaotic situation."

The SNC have established deep ties with autocratic Gulf monarchies as well as Western powers, with Saudi Arabia backing foreign arming of rebels to fight the Assad regime.

(Al-Akhbar)

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